In an ideal world, no one would have to stretch beyond their comfort zone to succeed at work, and all the tasks and responsibilities we need to perform would fit perfectly with our personalities. But unfortunately, this isn't usually the case. Conflict avoidant managers need to embrace conflict. Timid entrepreneurs need to be able to pitch and promote themselves; introverts need to network; self-conscious executives need to deliver speeches. You get the idea.
As we grow and learn in our jobs and in our careers, we're constantly faced with situations where we need to adapt our behavior. From the research I did with over 100 managers, executives, entrepreneurs and other highly successful people, here are my top 3 tips for stepping outside your comfort zone with success.
1. You've got to find some way of taking the leap. I put this first because in the end it's the most important. To step outside your comfort zone, you have to take a leap. Somehow, some way, you have to get yourself to step on that stage and start speaking... or walk up to that person and start talking... or deal with that uncomfortable situation. Taking a leap isn't as easy as it's sometimes portrayed on internet memes, but it's also not rocket science. Find your source of internal motivation, introduce a few small tweaks to the situation to make it your own and give it a go. Without the courage to actually take the leap, nothing is possible.
2. Endure the first few moments. Once you actually take that leap, the next key is to endure those next few moments of pain. I remember, for example, feeling so awkward approaching senior colleagues to make small talk during earlier in my professional career, wondering what I would possibly have to say to someone so experienced. But the key was that I stuck it out, even when every bone in my body wanted to flee the situation. And the funny thing was that I was often quite surprised at how easy it was - or at least how the anticipation of fear was much greater than the actual reality.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. I can't emphasize this enough. Preparation gives you the go-to instinctual response you need when the fear and anxiety kick in. If you practice multiple times, and ideally in situations that mimic the real situation you're preparing for, you'll be ready to go. So, practice that speech - or small talk -- or difficult conversation - multiple times, and ideally in practice situations that mimic or mirror the ultimate "performance" situation you're interested in. Make behavior into "muscle memory" so that when those inevitable butterflies do occur, instinct will kick in and you'll instinctively know what to do.
Follow these three tips and you'll find yourself having the courage to take that leap in no time.